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Introduction and Overview

Figure 1.4

The Lewis Environmental

Center at Oberlin College was designed by a team of top designers, led by William McDonough, a leading green building archi-

tect, and including John Todd, developer of the Living Machine. In addition to the superb design of the building’s hydrologic system, the extensive photovoltaic system makes it a net exporter of energy. (Photo- graph courtesy of Oberlin College.)


Energy conservation is best addressed through effective building design, which integrates three general approaches: (1) designing a building envelope that is highly resistant to conductive, convective, and radiative heat transfer; (2) employing renewable energy resources; and (3) fully implementing passive design. Passive design employs the building’s geometry, orientation, and mass to condition the structure using natural and climatological features such as the site’s solar insola- tion,11 thermal chimney effects, prevailing winds, local topography, microclimate, and landscaping. Since 30 percent of domestic primary energy12 is consumed by buildings in the United States, increased energy efficiency and a shift to renewable energy sources can appreciably reduce carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate cli- mate change.


The availability of potable water is the limiting factor for development and con- struction in many areas of the world. In the high-growth Sun Belt and western regions of the United States, the demand for water threatens to rapidly outstrip the natural supply, even in normal, nondrought conditions.13 Climate alterations and erratic weather patterns precipitated by global warming threaten to further limit the availability of this most precious resource. Since only a small portion of the Earth’s hydrological cycle yields potable water, protection of existing ground and surface water supplies is increasingly critical. Once water is contaminated, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reverse the damage. Water conservation techniques include the use of low-flow plumbing fixtures, water recycling, rainwater harvest- ing, and xeriscaping, a landscaping method that utilizes drought-resistant plants and resource-conserving techniques.14 Innovative approaches to wastewater processing and stormwater management are also necessary to address the full scope of the building hydrologic cycle.

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